Whether you’re planning your own funeral program for some time in the future, or putting it together as best you can for a recently passed loved one, the actual service can be a difficult element to plan. How “traditional” should you go? How many is too many speakers? Are slideshows tacky or tender? So many questions you’ve probably never considered before, and suddenly you are responsible for making these important decisions!
We’ve been around the block a few times now, and we’re here to help support you.
What’s Your Focus?
Nowadays many families are choosing to create a funeral program centered around the deceased’s life, not their death. These services often include a lot of visuals (photos, videos, etc.) and speakers who knew the deceased personally. These talks should be kept short and light, illustrating qualities of the deceased through anecdotes and memories that place them in a positive light. Choose speakers you can trust to follow these guidelines. Try to find people who can talk about different aspects of your loved one’s life—someone from work who has known the deceased in a professional setting, someone in the immediate family who knows their history and circumstances, and maybe someone from church or book club or a golfing buddy who can speak about their hobbies and passions. Stick with life and legacy, celebrating relationships and accomplishments that your loved one can claim.
More traditionally, funeral programs are created around a theme of death and life after death. If this is your focus, your program will be centered more around the meaning and impact of loss, creating a safe space for guests to express and channel their emotions. These funerals form connections between people who share common questions, beliefs, and feelings with each other in this gathering of the grieved. Traditional funeral services like this focus on comforting the guests, discussing what comes after this life, and studying things that give you solace.
What Parts to Consider
There are many moving parts to a complete funeral service, and a lot of people involved. First, there’s probably an officiant who leads the service. This person can be a clergy member, funeral director, close relative, or charismatic colleague. They start the program and lead the agenda by announcing the order of speakers or performers, make announcements if needed, and maybe take a turn to speak themselves. In addition, you’ve got the eulogist(s) who deliver the pre-planned, formal eulogy about the deceased. Usually, funeral programs include other speakers or readers as well. Consider assigning a variety of readings such as poems, prayers, literature passages, song lyrics, journal entries, etc. To break up the speaking, put in some music! This could be live performances, slideshows with background tunes, or a recording of a favorite hymn or classical piece. Can you include the grandkids in this? Does the music help lighten the mood or soften the topic? Who wants to be included, but who would be GOOD at these things?
A successful funeral service should feel cohesive and connected with a clear purpose or theme. Speakers and performers do best when given some guidance like a topic and time limit. It may feel overwhelming now, so rely on your funeral director’s advice to guide your decisions!